Healthy Life Area Expected at SPIEF 2024

The St. Petersburg International Economic Forum (SPIEF) 2024 will host a variety of Healthy Life events dedicated to healthcare and a Healthy Life Area thematic exhibition during which key members of the healthcare community will share cutting-edge technology projects and innovative developments. The SPIEF will also feature a series of expert discussions on healthcare.

Leading government and scientific figures will join representatives of the pharmaceutical and medical industries to hold talks on important healthcare topics in the area presentation zone.

“The Healthy Life Area has always been a place for presenting significant healthcare achievements at SPIEF. The expert discussions that take place there cover a wide range of issues facing healthcare, medical and scientific development, the accessibility of medical care, digitalization in the industry, in addition to human resources. The event’s business program has been drawn up with the support of experts from leading scientific centers to the ensure current topics are covered correctly. Experts will discuss major issues surrounding import substitution for medical and pharmaceutical products, advanced technologies for active longevity, new opportunities for medical and health tourism in Russia, corporate and social initiatives coming from Russian companies, opportunities to invest in the development of biomedical technologies, neurotechnology, digital health ecosystems, the application of artificial intelligence to new innovative products, and the development of healthcare technologies within BRICS,” First Deputy Director for Development and Head of the Healthcare Directorate of the Roscongress Foundation Anastasia Stolkova said.

The expert discussions have been organized with the support of the Federal Medical-Biological Agency of the Russian Federation, the Russian Research Institute of Health, the Center for Healthcare Quality Assessment and Control of the Ministry of Health of the Russian Federation, and the Sechenov University Institute of Leadership and Health Management among others.

“The topics up for discussion in the Healthy Life Area at SPIEF reflect the current healthcare agenda: training for human resources, digitalization and artificial intelligence, telemedicine and innovative technologies, and disease prevention.  The Russian Research Institute of Health has always provided expert support for the event and taken an active part in the preparation of sessions for the business program,” Russian Research Institute of Health Director Olga Kobyakova said.

The Healthy Life project is an industry platform for direct dialogue between representatives of the government and the expert community and a place to share experience with innovation, discuss target benchmarks, global trends, and the outlook for healthcare system, and work on practical proposals for building a healthier society.

Official website of the event:

The 27th St. Petersburg International Economic Forum will be held from 5 to 8 June, 2024 at the ExpoForum Convention and Exhibition Centre.

The Roscongress Foundation is a socially oriented non-financial development institution and major organizer of nationwide and international conventions; exhibitions; and business, public, youth, sporting, and cultural events. It was established in pursuance of a decision by the President of the Russian Federation.

Potential US curbs on AI model exports 'hegemonic' action, experts say

Chinese experts said on Thursday that potential export restrictions by the US on artificial intelligence (AI) models mainly target China, and the reported move is essentially a case of self-isolation and a hegemonic action, which will hinder the swift evolution of the global AI industry and dampen previous strides in globalization.

The so-called security concerns on the use of advanced AI models are completely political rhetoric meant to stoke fears over China's development, amid the intensifying US crackdown on Chinese products, observers said.

Reuters has reported that the US government is considering a new regulatory push to restrict exports of proprietary or closed-source AI models, whose software, and the data they train on, are kept under wraps.

The action was due to concerns that "US adversaries could use the models… to wage aggressive cyber-attacks or even create potent biological weapons."

The move adds to restrictions Washington has put in place to block exports of sophisticated AI technologies to China.

As China's AI sector booms, the US government has been acutely aware of the competitive pressure exerted by its biggest rival. With AI models emerging as a new focal point of competition, the US has continuously used the "national security threat" rhetoric to stoke fears over Chinese products, in a bid to hinder China's industrial upgrading, Ma Jihua, a veteran telecom industry observer, told the Global Times on Thursday.

The US announced in April it was adding four Chinese firms to an export blacklist for allegedly aiding Chinese entities in acquiring AI chips in violation of US regulations, according to media reports. Analysts noted that the action was part of the intensifying US crackdown on China's high-tech sector in recent years.

China's Foreign Ministry said in April that "we strongly oppose the illegal US unilateral sanctions" and vowed to do "what is necessary to firmly safeguard the lawful rights and interests of Chinese companies while urging the US to stop politicizing trade and tech issues and turning them into weapons."

Regardless of the measures the US may ultimately enact, the impact on China's AI sector is expected to be minimal, analysts said. Instead, the likely move would drive Chinese users toward home-grown large language models (LLMs), which are gaining robust momentum, Pan Helin, a member of the Expert Committee for Information and Communication Economy under the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology, told the Global Times on Thursday.

China's LLM sector is highly competitive, with a wide array of options available for its huge market. Given the disparities between Chinese and English contexts, homegrown AI products are better suited to Chinese consumers than their US counterparts, Pan said, highlighting the vast potential of the country's high-tech sector.

The Chinese Embassy in the US responded to inquiries by denouncing the reported action as a "typical act of economic coercion and unilateral bullying, which China firmly opposes," adding that it would take "necessary measures" to protect its interests, Reuters reported.

China is stepping up efforts to boost AI development and has witnessed fruitful outcomes. As of April, 117 LLMs had been registered in China for generative AI services, according to the Cyberspace Administration of China, reflecting the fierce competition in this burgeoning sector.

This year's Government Work Report noted AI's crucial role in accelerating new quality productive forces, highlighting the country's continuous push for the high-quality development of the digital economy by stepping up R&D and application of big data and AI, and planning to launch an AI Plus Initiative.

Israel leaves Biden with few options as breach over Rafah operation grows

Israeli leaders said the army had enough munitions on hand to proceed with its plans in Rafah, despite US President Joe Biden's threat of pausing some arms deliveries. Israel, its close ally, has put the US in an awkward position, according to observers. They attribute this situation to the deep-rooted flaws in the US political system.

President Biden quoted by CNN threatened to stop the supply of specific weapons if Israeli soldiers entered populated areas of Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip. The threat was widely interpreted as a turning point with relation to Israel in the seven-month conflict. 

Reacting to Biden's announcement, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that "If Israel is forced to stand alone, Israel will stand alone." Other Israeli officials also expressed disappointment and criticism over Biden's remarks. 

On Friday, the General Assembly is scheduled to hold a vote on Palestine's bid to become a full member of the UN, a move seen by many as largely symbolic. In a surprising move, Israel's UN Ambassador Gilad Erdan spoke on behalf of the US, stating, "If it is approved, I expect the US to completely stop funding the UN and its institutions, in accordance with American law." 

Asked why before any official stance of the US has been taken, an Israeli diplomat stationed at the UN seems to have made diplomatic decisions on behalf of the US, Chinese experts said the development was not surprising. 

Earlier, the US House of Representatives surprisingly passed an "Anti-Semitism Awareness Act" aimed at addressing rising antisemitism among college students who are angered by Israel's acts in Gaza and the US' long-standing biased Middle East policy.

Ding Long, a professor from the Middle East Studies Institute of Shanghai International Studies University, told the Global Times that despite increasing pressure from the international community, the Biden administration has stood firm with Israel by providing weapons and other assistance. But this time, Biden is eager to remove the burden of Israel and doesn't want it to become a negative factor for his election campaign. 

A few days ago, during the negotiations in Cairo, the US dispatched the CIA director in hope of achieving a deal between Israel and Palestine to cool down the conflict. However, the current problem is that Netanyahu, whose position as prime minister is in peril, simply does not listen to the US, and proceeding the war is the only option for Netanyahu to continue political career, Ding noted. "Once you get on the tiger's back, it's hard to get off again."

The military possesses the required weaponry for its planned operations, including those in Rafah, Israel Defense Forces (IDF) spokesperson Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari stated on Thursday.

Despite conditioning its military shipments to Israel, Biden remained committed to making sure Israel is secure in terms of Iron Dome and their ability to respond to those attacks. Li Jianmin, academic dean of the Institute of Central Asian Studies at Northwest Normal University, told the Global Times that the Biden administration cannot risk completely angering Israel. 

One reason for the Biden administration not to completely turn its back on Israel is that protecting Israel is in line with its overall policy of playing a bigger role in the Middle East, Li said. 

Israel's recent actions in Rafah has forced approximately 80,000 residents to flee their homes, with most seeking refuge in Khan Younis or Deir al Balah. These areas are lacking essential services, according to the United Nations. 

The Israeli military instructed around 110,000 civilians to leave parts of Rafah, which has become a haven for many displaced Palestinians living in inadequate conditions, media reports said. Previously, Jordan condemned Israeli settlers attacked a humanitarian aid convoy on its way to Erez crossing in northern Gaza. 

Observers warned of more humanitarian disasters as they predicted Netanyahu is determined to continue the military operation in Rafah. Lin Jian, a Chinese spokesperson for foreign ministry on Friday also condemned Israel's behavior of attacking aid convoy, urging Israel to implement international humanitarian aid law and provide guarantee for the aid.

China, Japan, S.Korea to hold trilateral leaders' meeting; cooperation beneficial for E.Asia's economy, stability: expert

With final arrangements underway to hold a long-stalled trilateral leaders' meeting among China, Japan, and South Korea, experts noted that the cooperation among the three countries is of great importance to the economy and stability in East Asia and the countries should seize the opportunity to alleviate tensions and foster collaboration.

South Korea is in final consultations with China and Japan to hold a trilateral meeting of their leaders on May 26 and 27, according to South Korea's Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Saturday. An official at the ministry said that the three countries agreed to hold the meeting "at the earliest date convenient for all sides."

According to South Korea's Yonhap News Agency, Chinese Premier Li Qiang and Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida are expected to visit Seoul to meet with President Yoon Suk Yeol, as South Korea is the current rotating chair.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Mao Ning said during a regular press conference on April 11 that China attaches importance to the cooperation among China, Japan, and South Korea, and hopes that the three sides will jointly create conditions for the leaders' meeting. "We are ready to maintain communication with South Korea and Japan for the meeting's preparation," Mao said at that time.

Japan's Fumio Kishida also expressed support for the upcoming three-way talks, telling a press conference on Saturday that coordination will continue for preparations for the meeting.

In another development, the foreign ministries of China and South Korea are in the final stages of coordinating the specific schedule for South Korean Foreign Minister Cho Tae-yul's visit to China, ahead of the trilateral leaders' talks, media reported.

"The cooperation among China, Japan, and South Korea holds immense benefits not only for East Asia, but also for the international community," Lü Chao, a research fellow at the Liaoning Academy of Social Sciences, told the Global Times on Monday.

Lü said that improving collaboration is in the interests of all parties involved, a common understanding among the three countries, especially in the economy. "It's also a gateway for building stronger consensus in other areas among the three countries," he said.

According to Japan Times, the three-way discussions are seen as covering six areas including people-to-people exchanges, economy and trade, public health, and peace and security, with outcome documents likely to be released. Bilateral talks may also take place.

The trilateral talks were last held in Chengdu, Southwest China's Sichuan Province in December 2019. The prolonged suspension is a result of the COVID-19 pandemic as well as some political and diplomatic conflicts among the countries, such as the blockade of China in the high-tech field by South Korea and Japan, Lü noted.

If the trilateral meeting proceeds as planned, it will bring positive developments for East Asian countries and contribute to peace and stability in the region, experts said. However, they also warned that there are lingering political and diplomatic challenges to overcome, particularly as Japan and South Korea are actively joining the small circles led by the US to counter China.

Japan and South Korea should seize the opportunity presented by this meeting to alleviate the current diplomatic tensions among the three countries, Lü said, noting that economic cooperation could serve as a starting point for enhancing trust and fostering stronger relations.

"The three parties should work together to identify shared interests and reach consensus on important issues in order to promote productive discussions and foster increased cooperation across different sectors in the future," Lü noted.

Hamas delegation to visit Cairo for cease-fire talks, yet 'prospects slim'

Hopes remain slim of a Gaza cease-fire as a Hamas delegation is expected to visit Cairo, Egypt on Monday for talks, after the group said it is studying a reply from Israel over a cease-fire proposal. Analysts said that while both Israel and Hamas could benefit from a temporary cease-fire, it still lacks factors to be positive. Under the growing international and domestic protests, the moral pressure and diplomatic isolation of Israel and the US may deepen. 

According to media reports, Hamas said in a Saturday statement that it has received Israel's official response to its latest cease-fire proposal in Gaza and will review it before submitting its reply, amid the latest efforts by Egypt as a broker. 

Speaking on condition of anonymity, a Hamas official told Reuters on Sunday that a delegation will visit Cairo on Monday for Gaza cease-fire talks. And the group will deliver its response to Israel's latest counterproposal for a Gaza cease-fire.

During an interview with local media Channel 12 television earlier, Israeli Foreign Minister Israel Katz said the release of hostages is the "top priority," and if there is a deal with Hamas on it, "we will suspend the operation," according to a Reuters report on Saturday. 

Citing two Israeli officials, Axios reported that Israel told Egyptian officials on Friday that it was ready to give hostage negotiations "one last chance" to reach a deal with Hamas before moving forward with a ground invasion of Rafah, where more than one million displaced Palestinians are sheltering due to the conflict, which has lasted more than six months. 

Israel Defense Forces chief of staff General Herzi Halevi and director of the Shin Bet security agency Ronen Bar visited Cairo earlier for talks on the Rafah operation and the hostage deal, Axios reported.

The Israeli officials said the talks with the Egyptians on Friday were "constructive" and that the Egyptians made it clear they intend to put pressure on Hamas to secure a deal for the release of hostages, according to Axios. However, a Wall Street Journal report said on Saturday that talks toward a hostage deal had little chance of success, according to Egyptian officials familiar with the negotiations.

Chinese experts said there is demand on both sides for a cease-fire, but the prospects for an actual cease-fire are still bleak. 

"Despite Hamas seeks a cease-fire when Rafah is almost their last stronghold in Gaza, the 'one last chance' claimed by Israel is also for themselves, as in the face of domestic pressure, they need Hamas to free as many hostages as possible before it attacks Rafah," said Niu Xinchun, executive director of the China-Arab Research Institute of Ningxia University. 

Amid the efforts to break the deadlock, on Saturday, Hamas released a video of two hostages, which US media interpreted as a tactic to increase pressure on the Israeli government to reach a cease-fire deal.  

Liu Zhongmin, a professor at the Middle East Studies Institute of Shanghai International Studies University, believes that the possibility of reaching a cease-fire deal is still limited, especially regarding the attitude from Qatar, a major mediator that has been promoting a cease-fire since last November. 

Qatari Prime Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani, who is also foreign minister, said there was a "misuse of this mediation for narrow political interests, and this necessitated Qatar to undertake a full evaluation of this role."

In an interview with Israeli media Haaretz published on Saturday, Qatar's Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesperson Majed Al-Ansari said that the Israel and Hamas "are not showing enough commitment" to reach a cease-fire and a hostage release deal, and "it gets sabotaged by both sides" when a deal gets close.  

Qatar's attitude illustrates how difficult the task of brokering a cease-fire will be, Liu said. 

Cease-fire talks between Hamas and Israel since the conflict broke out last October, have been more about hostage release and humanitarian aid, but they have never touched on the fundamentals of a permanent cease-fire. It means it is just about short-term expediency, Liu said. 

The Hamas side wants a complete cease-fire, and the Israelis want a complete elimination of Hamas, and that has not changed, Liu said. 

By claiming "one last chance," Israel is aiming to put more blame on Hamas and ease its pressure in the diplomatic sphere, especially after a top Hamas official said they will agree to a truce of five years or more and that it would lay down its weapons if an independent Palestinian state is established along pre-1967 borders, Liu said. 

Growing pressure

The cease-fire deadlock comes alongside a summit attended by regional and global leaders in Saudi Arabia, including US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. 

Speaking at a World Economic Forum (WEF) special meeting in Riyadh on Sunday, Abbas urged the US to ask Israel to stop the Rafah invasion, as the US "is the only country capable of preventing Israel from committing this crime," which would be "the biggest disaster in the history of the Palestinian people."

Citing diplomats, Reuters said on Friday that China will host Palestinian unity talks between Hamas and Fatah in Beijing.  

An Israeli attack on Rafah, which has been the main channel of outside aid into Gaza in the past six months, would be a further humanitarian disaster, Niu said. 

According to the Gaza health ministry on Sunday, Israeli's war in Gaza has killed at least 34,454 Palestinians since last October. 

Israel now faces a dilemma: with increasing diplomatic isolation and moral pressure from the international community, Israel must find some way to protect the over 1 million Palestinians in Rafah and even arrange for the transfer of civilians, but on the other hand, it is still unwilling to give ground on stopping the military operation in Gaza, Liu said.  

Whether or not a cease-fire is reached, Israel may opt for a compromise in the next phase of the conflict, Liu said, noting that Israel may keep up its partial bombardment of Gaza, but the large-scale invasion in Rafah may be postponed. 

Despite the Biden Administration warning Israel against a possible Rafah invasion, US President Joe Biden on Wednesday signed legislation that includes $26 billion in additional wartime assistance to Israel. 

After more than 100 protesters at Columbia University in New York City were arrested, student protests over the Israel-Hamas war have spread to other campuses, with more university students rallying for a cease-fire in Gaza. Pro-Palestine demonstration have occurred in London and Paris in recent days. 

To some extent, the growing campus protests in the US are a result of US duplicity and hypocrisy, which would put more pressure and cause dilemma for the US, Liu said. 

In fact, the US and Israel have the same fundamental interests and war objectives, and the US still supports Israel to completely eliminate Hamas, which means a Rafah invasion is inevitable, Niu said.  

Shenzhou-18 successfully launched, sending three taikonauts, fish to Chinese space station

With the thunderous roar, the Shenzhou-18 manned spacecraft blasted off from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in Northwest China, atop the Long March-2F Y18 carrier rocket on 8:59 pm on Thursday, carrying taikonauts Ye Guangfu, Li Cong and Li Guangsu as well as nearly 100 experimental projects to the Tiangong space station.

Following a smooth 10-minute flight, the Shenzhou-18 spacecraft successfully entered its planned orbit, as confirmed by a statement the China Manned Space Agency (CMSA) sent to the Global Times.

After entering its orbit, the Shenzhou-18 spacecraft adopted an autonomous rapid rendezvous, successfully docking with the Tianhe core module's radial docking port approximately 6.5 hours post-launch. This marked the formation of a three-ship, three-module complex.

Radial docking is a critical part of this mission. Compared to the more familiar forward and backward rendezvous and docking tasks, radial docking is "more like a complex action movie," officials with the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corp (CASC), China's leading space contractor, told the Global Times on Thursday.

"The hundred-ton class assembly of the space station could obstruct the spacecraft's measurement sensors, and there will be mutual impact of plumes from the station's engines… These will all pose significant challenges for radial docking. To eliminate the risks, we have minimized performance parameter deviations at each stage and verified that the docking mechanism has the capture and buffer capability under 31 complex conditions," the CASC said in a statement.
The Shenzhou-18 manned spacecraft is the second in the space station's application and development phase to implement radial docking. Prior to this mission, Shenzhou-16 had already successfully completed radial docking with the Chinese space station on May 30, 2023.

The current radial docking will further mark the maturity of China's independently developed space rendezvous and docking GNC (Guidance, Navigation, and Control) technology, said CNSA in its statement.

As manned missions to Tiangong have become normalized, more than 90 experiments are scheduled to be carried out in and outside of the space station during Shenzhou-18's six-month stay. These experiments include various fields such as microgravity basic physics, space materials science, space life science, aerospace medicine, and aerospace technology, CMSA spokesperson Lin Xiqiang said Wednesday while detailing the mission one day prior to the launch.
'The fourth crew member'

One of the highlights for this trip is the adventure of the very first fish, which has been dubbed adorably by Chinese netizens as "the fourth crew member of Shenzhou-18."

Using zebrafish and hornwort, "the experiment will be China's first in-orbit aquatic ecological research project, which aims to make a breakthrough in the cultivation of vertebrates in space," Lin said.

"In the broader picture, this ecosystem could potentially serve as a model for creating new ecological environments in space, including food ecosystems. On a smaller scale, the microgravity and radiation effects of space, if prolonged, are still unknown in terms of their impact on the members of the mini ecosystem and the material and energy cycles within the new ecosystem, which can provide new insights to our understanding toward space," Cang Huaixing, a research fellow at the Technology and Engineering Center for Space Utilization, Chinese Academy of Sciences, told the Global Times.

"Additionally, our device is equipped with a CCD for photography and video recording, enabling and facilitating behavioral studies of the fish," Cang said. "In fact, my observations in recent days have been surprising. The behavior of the fish is much more complex than we had previously imagined."

The selection of the fortunate "fourth member" is not just because zebrafish are beautiful, but also because they are well-known "model organisms" in the scientific community.

They have advantages such as small size, short development cycle, and short experimental period. What's more, zebrafish eggs are transparent, making it easy for researchers to observe the process of embryonic development.

More importantly, zebrafish share 87 percent genetic similarity with humans, making them suitable for studying and revealing universal principles of life forms.

In 2012, Japan had also sent a zebrafish aquarium to the International Space Station to observe the effects of microgravity on osteoblast and osteoclast activity.

Cang told the Global Times that while Japan's research focused on fish as the subject, China's goal is to construct and study an entire ecosystem.

Apart from raising fish, the Shenzhou-18 crew will also conduct the world's first in-orbit stem cell study on the plant's stem tips, to reveal the mechanism of plant evolutionary adaptation to gravity and provide theoretical support for space cropping, the CMSA revealed.

The prevention and damage repair of space debris impact will also be a key task during their stay.

"With human space activities rapidly increasing in recent years, the problem of space debris has become more prominent," Lin said. He noted that they had previously discovered that some of the solar panel cables on the space station were damaged by space debris impacts, leading to a partial loss of power supply capacity.

Building on the existing space debris protection mechanism at the station, the Shenzhou-18 crew will install debris protection reinforcement devices on external pipelines, cables, and key equipment during their extravehicular activities (EVAs). They will also conduct external inspections as needed to further ensure the safety of the space station.

In total, the Shenzhou-18 taikonauts are expected to carry out two to three EVAs and implement six cargo outbound deliveries via the station's cargo airlock module.

Heading to the moon

In February, CMSA revealed that landing Chinese on the moon has become the next priority for the country's space exploration now that the construction of Tiangong has been completed.

With the overall goal of achieving a lunar landing by 2030, research and development of various systems are currently under way as planned. The necessary design work for the Long March-10 carrier rocket, the Mengzhou manned spacecraft, Lanyue lunar lander, and lunar suits have all completed and are now in the process of producing initial samples and conducting various tests.

Additionally, the spacecraft and lander have completed the development of thermal test products, and the rocket is conducting ground tests of engines.

The construction of the Wenchang manned lunar exploration launch site has also been launched. Now, public solicitation of manned lunar vehicles and lunar payload schemes is underway, with competition for selection.

Compared to space station missions, lunar missions require astronauts to master the normal and emergency operations of the Mengzhou spacecraft and Lanyue lunar lander, as well as lunar surface operations such as entering and exiting the cabin, carrying out activities under one-sixth of normal gravity, driving lunar rovers over long distances, and conducting drilling, sampling, and scientific investigations on the moon.

China's fourth round of taikonaut selection will soon be completed. After joining the team, they will work together with incumbent taikonauts to carry out the follow-up missions in the space station and achieve the goal of landing on the moon.

China National Space Administration (CNSA) also revealed more details of international cooperation in its lunar probe programs on the just-ended China Space Day on Wednesday.

The International Lunar Research Station (ILRS,) a lunar program currently led by the CNSA and Russia's Roscosmos, has added Nicaragua, the Asia-Pacific Space Cooperation Organization (APSCO), and the Arab Union for Astronomy and Space Science as collaborating countries and organizations.

China will cooperate with these three parties in various aspects such as engineering implementation, operation and application of the ILRS program, the CNSA said.

Shenzhou-18 set for launch at 8:59 pm on April 25, marking China's 32nd manned flight into space

China will launch the Shenzhou-18 manned spacecraft from Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in Northwest China at 8:59 pm on Thursday, sending the new crew - Ye Guangfu, Li Cong, and Li Guangsu - to the Chinese Space Station, announced China Manned Space Agency (CMSA) at a press conference on Wednesday, which marks the country's ninth Space Day.

Shenzhou-18, China's first crewed mission this year, is the seventh batch of taikonauts to be sent to the Tiangong Space Station since its construction, and the third since it entered application and development phase. It also marks China's 32rd manned flight into space.

The crew members for the Shenzhou-18 manned spaceflight mission consist of taikonauts Ye Guangfu, Li Cong, and Li Guangsu, with Ye serving as the mission commander, CMSA spokesperson Lin Xiqiang said.

Ye from the second batch of selected taikonauts has previously participated in the Shenzhou-13 spaceflight mission, while the other two crew members from the third batch are embarking on their ever first space journey. All three were born in the 1980s. 

"Currently, all preparations for the mission are progressing steadily. The Long March-2F Y18 rocket, poised to carry out this launch mission, is about to start fueling," Lin said. 

After completing the orbital shift with the Shenzhou-17 members, the Shenzhou-18 crew will stay in the space station for about six months, during this period of time they will conduct space science and application experiments, and carry out two to three extravehicular activities and six cargo ingresses and egresses, installing space debris protection devices, as well as installing and retrieving external payloads and equipment.

Additionally, they will conduct science popularization activities, and carry out space experiments to further improve the station's operational efficiency. 

Notably, the Shenzhou-18 crew will carry experimental equipment and related samples to conduct the first domestic in-orbit aquatic ecological research project. The project will focus on zebrafish and ceratophyllum demersum, aiming to establish a stable space self-circulating aquatic ecosystem in orbit to achieve a breakthrough in China's cultivation of vertebrate animals in space,

After entering orbit, the Shenzhou-18 spacecraft will adopt an autonomous rapid rendezvous and docking according to plan, and dock with the Tianhe core module's radial docking port some 6.5 hours later, forming a three-ship, three-module complex. 

During their stay, the Shenzhou-18 crew will welcome the Tianzhou-8 cargo ship and the Shenzhou-19 crew, and are planned to return to the ground in late October this year. 

Currently, the space station complex is in good condition, and all equipment is working normally, with the Shenzhou-18 crew in good spirits. Ground system facilities and equipment are operating stably, and all launch site preparations are ready to go.

Wednesday marks the ninth China Space Day. Fifty-four years ago today, China's first space satellite, Dongfanghong-1, was successfully launched from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center. At 11 am, the mission crew met with domestic and foreign media at this important birthplace of China's space industry.

At the press conference, Lin noted that for the next step, China will accelerate research and promote the participation of foreign astronauts and space tourists in flights to the space station.

While answering questions regarding the future plans for manned lunar exploration, Lin said that China's fourth batch of taikonaut selection is about to be completed. After joining the team, they will work together with current taikonauts to carry out the follow-up missions in the space station and achieve the goal of landing on the moon.

The Long March-2F carrier rocket is the country's first-generation manned carrier rocket since its maiden flight in 1999, and it has never stopped on the path of self-improvement. 

Compared with the previous Long March-2F used in the Shenzhou-17 mission, the new rocket has undergone 32 technical improvements, making it safer and more reliable. The reliability assessment of the rocket has been increased from 0.9896 to 0.9903, and its safety assessment has reached 0.99996, according to information shared by rocket developers with the China Academy of Launch Vehicle Technology (CALT).

Since the space station started construction, the Long March-2F rocket has entered a normalized fast-paced launch state. 

In order to quickly and stably send taikonauts into space, the rocket development team has continuously explored the optimization of the launch site preparation process. Now, the preparation process of the Long March 2F rocket has been reduced from 49 days in the early stage to 30 days, according to CALT. 

Moreover, the development team has also used digital means such as remote measurement and control support systems to achieve real-time interconnection of rocket test data, making data interpretation more efficient and accurate. At the same time, the number of launch site personnel has been reduced by about 40 percent, further improving work efficiency.

As the country's only active manned launch vehicle, the Long March-2F rocket has been specially designed with a unique fault detection system and escape rescue system. Over the past 20 years, it has maintained a 100 percent launch success rate. Although the escape rescue system has never been used, researchers made numerous improvements and refinements behind the scene to better safeguard the taikonauts' safety.